Photo: Daily Herald
The Washington Capitals clash with the New York Rangers for the second time this season when the two teams meet at Madison Square Garden on Saturday afternoon. The Capitals won the first meeting by a score of 4-3 in overtime on October 17 at Capital One Arena. Puck drop from Manhattan will be broadcasted on NBC Sports Washington and NHL Network for those outside of the DMV starting at 2 PM Eastern.
The Capitals come into Saturday’s matinee with the Rangers rolling on a season-high four-game winning streak. Additionally, the team has won five of their past six games after going 2-2-1 on a five-game homestand at the beginning of November. The team came home from a 3-1-0 road trip and defeated the Chicago Blackhawks 4-2 on Wednesday and the red-hot Detroit Red Wings 3-1 on Friday afternoon at Capital One Arena. With Friday’s win over the Red Wings, the team find themselves in second place in the Metropolitan Division, one point ahead of the Rangers and one behind the Columbus Blue Jackets entering Saturday’s tilt with New York.
Capitals forwards T.J. Oshie and Evgeny Kuznetsov each missed a fourth consecutive game with upper-body injuries (likely concussions) on Friday against the Red Wings. They have yet to practice with the team and will likely be out on Saturday against the Rangers and Monday against the New York Islanders. The Capitals have gone on their longest winning streak of the season of four, all of which being without the services of Oshie, 31, and Kuznetsov, 26.
The team has averaged three goals per game during the absence of their two scoring threats and enter Saturday’s game against the Rangers tied with the Nashville Predators with an average of 3.36 goals-per-game. Captain Alex Ovechkin is second in the NHL with 16 goals and leads the team with 26 points and seven power-play goals. The Capitals have four players who have at least 11 power-play points (Center Nicklas Backstrom and defenseman John Carlson each lead the team with 12 power-play points while Kuznetsov and Ovechkin are right behind them with 11).
The Capitals begin their annual fathers’ trip on Saturday in Manhattan and Monday against the Islanders. Since 2008, the team has posted an 13-6-0 record with their mentors in attendance, including 1-1-0 last season. They went 2-0-0 on their fathers’ trip in 2016-17.
Goaltender Pheonix Copley will likely start in net against the Rangers for the first time in his career after goaltender Braden Holtby made 31 saves for his third consecutive victory against the Red Wings on Friday. Copley, 27, is 4-2-1 with a save percentage of .899 and a goals-against average of 3.07 this season and has won four of his past five starts.
New York enters Saturday’s game as the hottest team in the league, going 9-2-1 in their past dozen games after a 3-7-1 start but a 4-0 loss at the Philadelphia Flyers on Friday afternoon snapped their three-game winning streak.
The Rangers have been one of the league’s most surprising teams after dealing top players such as defenseman Ryan McDonagh and forward Michael Grabner at the NHL trade deadline last season. The team hired former-Boston University coach David Quinn after firing Alain Vigneault as head coach of the team. The team was relatively quiet over the summer but did trade forward Ryan Spooner to the Edmonton Oilers for center Ryan Strome earlier this month. Strome, 25, has one assist in his first four games as a Ranger.
The team has a relatively young defense, which yields an average of 33.7 shots per game, the fourth-most in the league, and has an efficiency of 77.3% with a man down, the tenth-worst in the league. One of their young studs on defense includes 23-year old Neal Pionk. Pionk has been impressive for the Rangers, recording four goals and 14 points, 11 of which have come on the power-play. His 11 points on the power-play rank the most on the team.
Forward Chris Kreider leads the Rangers with 12 goals and 20 points through the team’s first 23 games this season. His five power-play goals are three more than the second-best in that category (Pionk and center Mika Zibanejad). Kreider, 27, went on an eight-game stretch where he tallied six goals and 11 points before he was held off of the scoresheet against the Flyers on Friday.
Expect goaltender Alexandar Georgiev, who is 4-2-0 with a save percentage of .911, a goals-against average of 2.94, and one shutout this season, to start against the Capitals on Saturday afternoon after goaltender Henrik Lundqvist started against the Flyers on Friday. In one career start against the Capitals last season, Georgiev, 22, allowed three goals on six shots in the first period before getting pulled in favor of goaltender Ondrej Pavelec.
-Ovechkin has recorded 50 points (32 goals) in 53 career games against the Rangers
-Since Tom Wilson‘s season debut on Nov. 13, the Capitals recorded an efficiency of 85.7%, a 14.6% better penalty kill rate than their previous 16 games; The 24-year-old forward has averaged 2:15 per game on the penalty kill, which is the highest rate among Capitals’ forwards during that six-game time frame
-Copley has posted a record of 4-1-1 with a 2.59 goals against average and a .912 save percentage in his last seven games played
A Look Back in Time
The Capitals rode a four-goal first period to beat the Rangers 4-2 last time they visited Madison Square Garden on March 26. Defenseman Matt Niskanen, Oshie, Ovechkin, Kuznetsov all scored as goaltender Philipp Grubauer made 28 saves in the win.
By Harrison Brown